Synopsis – Jolly is a clumsy lawyer who is faced with representing the most critical court case of his career.
My Take – It’s hard to make a court room drama for an audience who are still so used to the generation old one man army kind of films, who with no matter what cost or attribution, still finds the time to have a dance number with the film’s leading lady. Yet, some filmmakers have overcome the certain sparse location with sharp, powerful drama and adequate twists without being tedious. Director Subhash Kapoor is one of those few filmmakers who found success in this format with a court-room satire released back in 2013, mainly as it was cleverly written and brilliantly enacted by its main cast comprising of Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Amrita Rao & Saurabh Shukla. Fours year later, writer-director Subhash Kapoor is back with the next installment of his unexpected franchise with a new case to tackle & more funny bones to tickle, however the setting has shifted from Delhi to Lucknow, and apart from Saurabh Shukla’s national award winning role as Judge Sundar Lal Tripathi, none of the original cast returns. In the lead, Arshad Warsi’s Jagdish Tyagi has been replaced with Akshay Kumar’s Jagdish Mishra, who is also incidentally known as Jolly. And as anyone would predict the presence of the ever reliable Akshay Kumar has upped the scale of expectations, even though the premise pretty much remains the same: unrefined newbie lawyer goes up against smooth-talking big city player, grows a conscience and takes on the system. Luckily, the sequel based on similar format manages to entertain and engage just as much, despite the film’s predictability and some unexplained, unnecessary plot twists.
The story follows Jagdhishwar Mishra aka Jolly (Akshay Kumar), a struggling lawyer in Lucknow who aspires to have his own chamber and make it big in his profession. Married to ever demanding Pushpa (Huma Qureshi) with a small kid, Jolly is the 15th assistant of a noted lawyer of the city and despite his eagerness to prove his worth, is never given an opportunity to work on any case mainly as his now retired father was just a legal clerk. Needless to say Jolly wants to break out and have his own practice and opportunity appears in the form of Hina Siddiqui (Sayani Gupta), a desperate 8 month pregnant woman who makes rounds of the court every day in an attempt to get someone to fight the case of her dead husband. She believes her husband Iqbal (Manav Kaul) was killed in a staged police encounter only because his name echoed resemblance to that of a Kashmiri terrorist. By conning Hina, Jolly does manage to get his own chamber, but it’s only when Hina commits suicide, he realize his mistake and decides to fight her case out of repentance. Even though, Jolly files a public interest litigation demanding the indictment of police official Suryaveer Singh (Kumud Mishra), he seems to be biting off more than he can chew – especially when the police department hires the powerful, expensive lawyer Sachin Kantilal Mathur (Annu Kapoor) to reduce the opposition to dust. Thus begins the journey of one man against the corrupt system of law and order with a tinge of humor. Director Subhash Kapoor’s film tracks and unravels the journey of the crooked police system. He highlights dirty situations which culminate in being victimized by power and politics. The film is perhaps a reflection of the society and the upbringing of a huge population, who still aren’t aware of the twisted annals of the law and order. First half of the film is much better than the second, with a hook point at the intermission, but the real drama unfolds in the second half which mainly pans out in the court room. The good part of the film is despite losing the grip in middle, it picks up the pace by the end credits. In his choice of subjects and even in his treatment, Subhash Kapoor has been quite inspired by Rajkumar Hirani, hence the film does end up reminding you a lot of Munnabhai MBBS – the good-hearted protagonist seeking redemption; his humiliation in front of his father; his fight against the system; his eventual rise as the people’s hero. There is sincerity in Kapoor’s making, which is why you can survive even the dreariest of scenes. Without a doubt, the court room scenes are the high point of the film and rightly so considering the film is about a lawyer. The altercation between Kapoor and Kumar, Kumar’s desperate attempt at proving his worth and save the case and Shukla’s quick and right repartee to both the lawyers are the high points of the film. But the sub-plot which deals with Hina and her husband in the flashback portions gives you the feeling we are in for some really good engagement and that an investigation of high standards is what we are going to witness. This sub plot which is about 20 minutes long is amazing and Sayani has got into the skin of the character of a widow. The first film at its core wrestled with moral questions between two warring classes. Here Jolly himself isn’t morally upright right from the start and he needs something bigger to jolt him out of his inebriated state. When the action shifts to the courtroom, we realize that Kapoor has eschewed the black-and-white morals of the first film and is going for more grey areas that have communal, political and judicial undertones.
Suddenly it makes us wonder if there was more to the opposition this film faced with the censor board and lawyer outfits. There are tons of caste and religious symbolism that Kapoor packs here and there, some in your face and some delightfully offhand. An example of the latter kind would be what Jolly does with the sacred thread across his torso when he returns home late one night and goes for a few pegs. There is a cricket match between Hindu and Muslim women in Banaras called Ghoongat vs Burqa! Jolly rides the coattails of the law firm belonging to a Muslim lawyer and is routinely rejected by firm’s potential Muslim clients. The desperate ones like Hina respect him and even if they don’t request him to take up their case, they want him to put it in a word with his boss and from the synopsis you can make it out that case is not too unfamiliar to the real world. Jolly is now Shahid Azmi and because this is more of mainstream film, politically charged drama gives way to judicial topics. Despite its liberal and humanist values and attempts to create a convincing portrait of the workings of the Indian legal system, the film is frequently guilty of dramatic overreach. Like its predecessor, the film suffers from sluggish pacing, an uneven tone (farce one minute, pathos the next), ludicrous twists, preachiness and an unfailing tendency to play to the gallery. The contrivances begin early in a film that has no shortage of them, for example Iqbal has been allowed to attend his nuptials and consummate his marriage before being murdered in cold blood the next morning. If Suryaveer Singh had wanted to kill Iqbal anyway, why did he allow him to attend his wedding in the first place? Was it only so that Hina could show up with a swollen belly? Would our hearts have not bled for her anyway? Still despite making concessions to mainstream contrivances, the film’s sincerity managed to hit the right chord. Even though it isn’t always the most consistent film, you appreciate it because of the point it tries to make. The courtroom scenes are not as outlandish or dramatic as Rustom and are rooted in realism which helps bring believability to this worthy sequel. Considering that the film was shot and completed in 33 days, and it is a miracle that the film was made without many chinks. It is technically a good looking film because neither the sets nor the costumes come across as over the top. The editing is top notch as the court room scenes are very well cut and the film itself has a pace about it throughout the duration. The music of the film isn’t exceptional and it doesn’t need to be either, but it stays true to the nature of the film and accentuates the tone and vibe. Director Subhash Kapoor is a man who knows how to make people laugh through his well-written filmy sequences and then make them remember those sequences so that they can think about it later and laugh out loud for the nth time. It’s clear how heavily he has banked on Akshay Kumar’s charisma & talent to carry the film & with his energy he does it well. Akshay Kumar pumps in so much life into the film that it is his performance that steals the show. His screen presence, his personality, the way he projects his character and his facial expressions are brilliant. Turning your eye anywhere else is a crime when he is on screen. Annu Kapoor provides able support to Akshay and to the film. His class is on full display here and he makes the most mundane of dialogues and scenes memorable. Huma Qureshi is endearing but has hardly anything to do here. Saurabh Shukla is again delightful. Rajiv Gupta as Jolly’s sidekick, Kumud Mishra, Sayani Gupta, Manav Kaul and Inaamulhaq are likable. Sanjay Mishra too repeats his cameo role from the earlier film in a delightful scene. On the whole, ‘Jolly LLB 2’ manages to wholly engage viewers with its humor and take on some serious issues without becoming too dramatic and gives Akshay Kumar ample scope to perform.
Directed – Subhash Kapoor
Rated – PG
Run Time – 140 minutes